Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel near Fort Payne

On our trip to the Fort Payne area in October 2012, wife Dianne and I visited this unusual chapel just outside DeSoto State Park. You can see some of my photos below. Every state has its residents who were very accomplished, very strange, and finally a bit sad. Colonel Milford Howard, the man who built this chapel, is one of Alabama's.

Howard was born in Floyd County, Georgia, in December 1862. In a few years the family moved to Arkansas, but was back in Georgia by 1876. Howard read for the law, moved to Fort Payne in 1880, passed the Alabama bar and set up practice. In 1887 he lost his money in real estate speculation; by 1893 he began giving lectures to earn extra income. Just such a lecture the following year in Washington, D.C., led him to write If Christ Came to Congress as a corruption expose.

In 1894 he became a Populist candidate for U.S. Congress. In Alabama as elsewhere this third party movement drew support from small landowning farmers as well as sharecropping and tenant farmers and organized labor. Since the party opposed the interests of railroads and wealthy industrialists, elections in Alabama and other areas of party strength were often violent in the 1890s. Howard's race was no different but he won despite threats against himself and his family.

Despite a nervous breakdown, Howard ran again in 1896 and won, but moved his family to Cullman. Two years later he decided to leave Congress and he bought a farm near Fort Payne. He returned to legal practice and lecturing and started writing short fiction, but had to declare bankruptcy in 1901. By 1910 he had lost more money and a race for re-election, so the family moved to Birmingham where he hoped to have a more successful legal practice. Six years and another nervous breakdown later, the Howards were back in Fort Payne. He and the family moved to California in 1919 where he hoped to sell scripts.

Out west Howard did manage to publish two novels, Peggy Ware and The Bishop of the Ozarks. Both novels take place in the mountains; Peggy Ware is set in the Buck's Pocket area. He also starred in a silent film version of the latter book. 

By 1923 Howard had returned to Alabama and bought land near Mentone. The plan this time was to open a school for mountain children. This project was dogged by the same financial problems--and nervous breakdown--that seemed attached to Howard. In 1925 his wife Sallie died, and he closed the school. 

The following year he married again, took his new wife Stella to Europe and wrote about the trip for the Birmingham News after their return. His new wife did not care to live in the mountains, and they divorced in 1936. Howard had no income during this time, and generous friends helped him out. He used the money to build the chapel in honor of Sallie. 

By the time he finished, he was very sick and returned to California, where he died in December 1937, just six months after the chapel's dedication. Ex-wife Stella returned his ashes to Lookout Mountain where they rest at the chapel's giant granite boulder.  

Services are held in the chapel each Sunday, and it is apparently a popular spot for weddings. There is a small cemetery next to the chapel and a short walking trail nearby. 

A more detailed life of this fascinating man can be found in Elizabeth S. Howard's 1976 biography, The Vagabond Dreamer. The author is not related to her subject.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cut! Movies & TV Shows Set in Birmingham

            Recently that gushing fountain of interesting stuff, the site, ran a piece on “the most popular television show set in every state.” The original list was developed by Business Insider magazine and considered show longevity, audience size, critical response, awards and cultural impact. The list included Bonanza in Nevada, Mary Tyler Moore in Minnesota, In the Heat of the Night in Mississippi and The Walking Dead in Georgia.

And for Alabama? Why, a show set right here in Birmingham, Any Day Now. That article started me thinking about other tv shows and films set in the Magic City.  Here’s what I’ve found so far.

One category of such productions that may come to mind first is documentaries. Spike Lee’s film 4 Little Girls is a well-known example. Released in June 1997, it chronicles the September 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and its aftermath. Produced by Home Box Office, the film appeared briefly in theaters and has been released on DVD. The song “Birmingham Sunday” by Richard and Mimi Farina and sung by Joan Baez [Mimi’s sister] is used in the film. Sins of the Father, a television docudrama based on the role of Bobby Frank Cherry in this event, was first broadcast in January, 2002.  
Source: Wikipedia

A “reality” television series set in the area premiered on the MTV channel in August, 2006. Two-a-Days explored the on and off-field lives of players on the highly-successful Hoover High School football team. The show consisted of 16 episodes; a second season began in January 2007. A third season was planned but scuttled in the wake of problems that surfaced in the school’s athletic program and in the personal life of head football coach Rush Propst. Both seasons were released on DVD.
Source: Amazon

Other documentaries and reality shows have featured Birmingham topics and people. The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement [2011] focuses on the role of African-American barber Mr. Armstrong as he is inducted into the Foot Soldiers Hall of Fame and reacts to the election of Barak Obama. Mighty Times: The Children’s March [2004] chronicles an event in the city in May, 1963; the film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject.  A 1985 Canadian production looked at Jazz in the Magic City.

The 2013 film Skanks tells the story of a local group of actors who produced an original drag musical. She’s a Lady: Memoir of a Downtown Theatre is a 2006 documentary about the Lyric. The Amandas is a 2012 Style Network home makeover program featuring local resident Amanda LeBlanc and her team. The A&E Network crime show The First 48 featured the Birmingham Police Department in episodes beginning in February 2009. City native Robert Clem released one of his documentaries, Jefferson County Sound, in 2012; it profiled several local gospel quartets and has been shown on Alabama Public Television. No doubt many other city people and topics have turned up in film and television documentaries.

Several fictional film and television productions have also featured Birmingham. The earliest one I have been able to find is Camp Meetin’, a 17-minute short released in 1936. A church congregation has an open-air tent meeting to raise money so their pastor can be sent to a conference in Birmingham. Acting in the film are members of the African-American Hall Johnson Choir, a group famous at the time. Johnson and his choir were associated with Marc Connelly’s play The Green Pastures, which had great success on Broadway and in national and international tours. A film version was released in 1936, and Camp Meetin’ may have been made to capitalize on their fame. Since I haven’t seen this short, I am not sure any scenes are actually set in Birmingham.

A film released in April 1976 has plenty of Birmingham connections. Stay Hungry is based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Charles Gaines, a graduate of Birmingham-Southern. The film is entirely set in Birmingham and extensive filming was done in the city. Jeff Bridges plays Craig Blake, a young man who needs one more parcel to complete a shady real estate deal. He visits the gym located there and is attracted to both the receptionist played by Sally Field and the lifestyle of the bodybuilders including one played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won a Golden Globe award for his acting debut. An article about the filming can be found here and of course at the Bhamwiki site.
Source: Wikipedia


Local filming was done around the city and included such places as the Bank for Savings Building, a house on Mountain Brook Parkway, Joy Young Restaurant, the Country Club of Birmingham, Boutwell Auditorium and the fire escape of the Lyric Theatre. The movie’s Olympic Gym was located downtown on 2nd Avenue North .

Sally Field has noted that the film furthered her career by showcasing her talent beyond The Flying Nun sitcom and other tv work she was known for at the time. Arnold Schwarzenegger has described how friendly his reception as “Mr. Universe” was in the city. Other well-known people in the cast include Fannie Flagg, Joanna Cassidy, Scatman Crothers, Robert Englund and Ed Begley, Jr. The gym owner was played by R.G. Armstrong, born and raised in the Birmingham area, who had a long career as a character actor in numerous films and television episodes.

A more recent film is also set in the Magic City. Clubhouse was released last October and according to the Internet Movie Database description, “is set in a stately old home in Birmingham, Alabama.” “Sinister characters” attempt to take the home from its “humble” owner.  Unfortunately, the IMDb entry does not say where the movie was filmed. Has anyone seen it?

And what about Any Day Now? As far as I know, it’s the only scripted television series set in the city. The CW’s current series Hart of Dixie is set in a fictional small town in south Alabama. These may be the only two scripted television series set in the state.


Any Day Now ran on the Lifetime network from August 1998 until March 2002 for a total of 88 hour-long episodes. Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint played middle aged versions of two childhood friends—one white, the other black—who grew up in Birmingham in the 1960s. Potts’ character has remained in town, where she and her husband and two children struggle financially. Toussaint’s character has become a successful attorney in Washington, D.C., but when her father dies she moves back, sets up a practice, and resumes the friendship.
Each episode featured scenes from the lives of the two women in both the past and present. The show ended after four seasons because Potts chose not to renew her contract so she could spend more time with family. According to the IMDb entry, at least some filming was done in Birmingham.  The show does not seem to have been released on DVD but is apparently available on HuluPlus.
This past spring Moms' Night Out appeared in movie theaters. The comedy was filmed in various locations around Birmingham and Shelby County.

If you have seen any of these productions and have information or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I’m sure I haven’t included some productions available, as well as single episodes of series that were set in Birmingham. There may be an update posting in the future. And then there’s a potential post on movies and tv shows filmed but not set in Birmingham, and another one on novels and short stories that take place here, and yet another one on the poetry about Birmingham, and…who knows?
A version of this piece appeared on in February 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (20): Powell School

Here is another photograph from the 1908 book Views of Birmingham.

Today Powell School is a burned-out structure that came close to being  demolished after a fire in January 2011. Built in 1888 on the site of the first city school, Powell is the oldest school building remaining in the city. 

The photo below shows the school in its glory days. The winter season gives a good view of the building; three figures--perhaps students--are sitting in front to the right of the main entrance. 

Birmingham City Schools closed Powell School in 2001, but continued to use the building for a few years. The structure was vacant at the time of the fire. In late 2011 the property was donated to the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Bhamwiki site has an extensive history that includes a drawing of the original school that opened in 1874 and a photo of the building in 2008. In May 2014 the Birmingham News published an article indicating that the property may be purchased from the Trust and the building renovated into apartments. One can only hope.       

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pelham Reaches Fifty

       Most of us probably associate Pelham only with recent history. After all, Pelham was not incorporated until 1964, when the population was 654.Most of the town's growth has taken place since the 1980s. In July the city celebrated the 50th anniversary of that incorporation. Yet a community named Pelham has existed in this location since the early 1870s; a post office was established here in 1873.

Pelham's history actually goes back to the very early days of the state. Alabama achieved statehood in December, 1819. Shelby County was created in the Alabama Territory in February, 1818; the county is named for Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky and a hero of the Battle of King's Mountain during the Revolutionary War.
In 1820 a county courthouse was built by Thomas A. Rogers, Alabama's first Secretary of State, in a community known as Shelbyville. Six years later a permanent county seat was established in the southern part of the county at Columbiana. Shelbyville remained tiny, and after the Civil War--some accounts say in 1867--the town was renamed after Confederate hero Major John Pelham.
John Pelham in his uniform at West Point, 1858
Source: Wikipedia

John Pelham was born in what is now Calhoun County on September 7, 1838. He was the son of Atkinson Pelham, a physician, and Martha McGehee Pelham. His siblings included brothers William and Peter. A fictionalized account of the family, Growing Up in Alabama, was published by Mary Elizabeth Sergent in 1988.

As the Civil War loomed, Pelham resigned from West Point just weeks before his graduation. He distinguished himself with an artillery battery at the first Battle of Manassas, and J.E.B. Stuart appointed him captain of a six-gun battery with his cavalry. Pelham participated in some 60 battles under Stuart, and his contribution to the Confederate victory at Fredericksburg led Robert E. Lee to dub him "the Gallant Pelham." He died at the age of 24 on March 17, 1863, at the Battle of Kelly's Ford in Virginia. Pelham is buried in the Jacksonville City Cemetery, where a large monument marks his grave. The city of Pelham held a Major John Pelham Day in March 1988.

Our Shelby County Pelham is not the only location with that name in Alabama; there is a Pelham Heights in Calhoun County and another Pelham in Choctaw County. Communities named Pelham exist in Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts. There are also numerous streets by this name around the country. Some of these are probably not named after a Confederate cavalry hero!

Very little history of our Pelham has been gathered for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At least five physicians practiced here during this period. Eli Forest Denson, a Vanderbilt graduate, arrived around 1879. Another Vanderbilt alumni, Joseph Madison Johnson, and William R. King Johnson [perhaps a brother] who graduated from the Atlanta Medical College, set up practices in the early 1880s. Andrew Wailes Horton of the Medical College of Alabama began practice in Pelham around 1901. How long these doctors remained in the area is not yet known. Buried in the Pelham Community Cemetery, which was established in the early 1840s, is John Payne, M.D., who died in 1901. The cemetery is located at the intersection of County Highway 105 (Bearden Road) and Industrial Park Road; the oldest marked grave is that of Louisa T. Betty Cross.

The Alabama State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1887-1888 lists a number of the businesses and professional men in Pelham, which had about 250 residents then. Included were a postmaster, constable, hotel owner, dentist, shoemaker, blacksmith, four general store owners, a lumber yard, three ministers, and one physician, William Rufus K. Johnson.

At least one of the merchants, W.S. Cross, was profiled in depth in the Memorial Record of Alabama published in 1893. A Shelby County native, Cross started a small store in Pelham in 1881. He did well enough to buy and sell at a profit some Birmingham real estate and then bought more property in Pelham, "which he has improved with dwellings and store houses." In 1880 Cross had married Ann McWhorter, a Butler County native; by 1893, the couple had five children.

Pelham appears on Joseph Squire's "Map of Helena and Environs" from 1885 and on a 1937 Shelby County map issued by the state highway department. What is probably the city's oldest building, the Pelham Railroad Depot, dates from about 1900. The
structure was moved from its original location behind City Hall to the city park in August 1988 and renovated.

From the 1930s until at least the 1950s Shelby County Voting District 17 was known as the Pelham District. Development of Oak Mountain State Park began in 1935 under the direction of engineer W.J. Connell using the labor of 180 young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Many of these youths were from New York City and getting their first taste of rural America.

Several schools have been located in Pelham. Rutherford High School opened in the 1870s. This structure, which had one large room and a smaller music room, was destroyed by a storm in 1909. The Pelham School, a two-story wooden building, opened sometime after and was replaced in 1936 by a one-story school with four rooms, an auditorium, and a lunch room. Located on the site of the current City Hall, the building was used as the city's offices after Valley Elementary opened in 1964 until it was torn down in 1973. Pelham High School opened in 1974.

Efforts to organize churches in Pelham began before 1900. A Methodist church, located for over a century at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 31 and Shelby Co. 52, was dedicated in November, 1898, and also served Baptists and Presbyterians. A Baptist church formed in 1908, but became inactive the following year. Several other attempts to organize a Baptist church continued into the 1930s; the first full-time pastor, Ronnie Euler, was appointed in 1966.

On July 7, 1964, an incorporation election was held at the Pelham School. Many residents were afraid the nearby city of Alabaster would try to annex the area. Over ninety percent of eligible voters, one hundred and forty-one people, voted; one hundred and twenty-one were in favor of incorporation. Three days later the "Order of Incorporation" was filed at the Probate Office, and Pelham's legal existence began. The incorporated area included the Pelham and Keystone communities, Fungo Hollow, and part of the Helena rural route. In the fifty years since that vote, Pelham has had only five mayors: Paul Yeager, Sr. [1964-1976], Alton Burk Dunaway [1976-1984], Bobby Hayes 1984-2008], Don Murphy [2008-2012], and the current mayor and former city Fire Chief, Gary Waters.

In December, 1964, Pelham hired its first policeman, L.A. "Buddy" Wilkinson, who was paid $100 a month. Initially the fire department was a volunteer one; the first Chief was Roy Jowers, followed by O.C. Ray, who served from 1966 to 1977. In March of that year W.A. Bryars became the city's first professional Chief. The first city clerk, Willie Mae Dennis, held the post until her retirement in 1984; during her first few years she worked part-time for the city. The U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for the city on July 1, 2012, was 22,012 individuals.

Read More About It 

Hassler, William W. Colonel John Pelham. 1960 

Heritage of Shelby County, Alabama. 1999 

Mercer, Philip. The Life of the Gallant Pelham. 1995 

Milham, Charles G. Gallant Pelham: American Extraordinary. 1985 [1959] 

Roberts, Barbara. "History of Pelham" [unpublished; available in the Pelham Public Library] 

Schatz, Clark T. "The Birth and Growth of a Town" [unpublished; covers 1964-1979; available in the Pelham Public Library] 

Seales, Bobby Joe. History of Pelham: The Gateway of Opportunity.

Links to Pelham Articles on this blog

Pondering an Alabama Map (2): Pelham in 1926

Pondering an Alabama Map (1): Pelham in 1917

Keystone Then and Now

Pelham Schools Have a Long History

Pelham Railroad Depot Then and Now

Pelham's Oak Mountain State Park 

A Story in Stone: John Payne, M.D. [1860-1901]

Pelham in the 1880s

A version of this article appeared in the Pelham City News July 2014.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Birmingham's National Dope Company & Other Early Soft Drink Bottlers

In the first half of the 20th century Birmingham was home to several soft drink companies bottling such exotic drinks as Gay-Ola, Rye-Ola and Wiseola. At his Kola Wars site noted below, researcher Dennis Smith declares, “No city in the country had the number of brand name and proprietary soft drinks that were produced in the city of Birmingham prior to 1920.” With the help of the BhamWiki and web sites, I’d like to bring together some information on a few of these companies and their products.

Bottled drinks appeared in Alabama soon after the Civil War.  “Red Sulphur Water” was sold in blue bottles in the 1870s by the Blount Springs Natural Sulphur Water Bottling Company. The firm operated at the mineral springs resort north of Birmingham; the product was sold to guests and passengers on the resort’s trains. Bottles were also shipped elsewhere in Alabama and into Tennessee as well.

An early Birmingham soft drink drink formula, Celery-Cola, was developed by businessman James Mayfield in 1887. Beginning in the 1880s Mayfield partnered with John Pemberton, the patent medicine inventor whose products included Coca-Cola. He also worked as general manager for T.J. Eady’s real estate, banking and manufacturing businesses as well as the Wine Coca Company. Mayfield later developed oil wells in Kentucky and Tennessee and opened offices to sell drink syrup rights to bottlers all over the United States, Cuba and South America until the Great Depression killed his final efforts in that field.


In 1899 Mayfield and a partner opened J.C. Mayfield Manufacturing Company on Morris Avenue and the Celery-Cola Company operated from there until 1910. In 1906 Congress passed the first consumer legislation, the Pure Food and Drug Act, which allowed the federal government to require product labels giving ingredients and amounts. Unfortunately, Mayfield’s Celery-Cola contained high levels of caffeine and cocaine, two of the substances the government could regulate. The Pure Food and Drug Administration took Mayfield to court and won; he had to close the business. In 1911, however, he was in St. Louis operating as the Koke Company; Coca-Cola sued for trademark infringement and finally won a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1920. He continued marketing other drinks from St. Louis into the 1930s.

Another local chemist and drink entrepreneur was Jefferson J. Peek and his Peek Beverage Company.  He opened his company in 1905; his offices were in the original Watt Building downtown with a bottling operation next door.  The 1910 U.S. Census shows Peek living on 28th Street with his wife Mary and two sons. His occupation is listed as “manufacturer Kola syrup.” Peek created such brands as Rye-Ola, Wiseola and Nervola before selling the firm in 1918. The new owners had to close the business, by then located in Southside, in 1922.
Rye-Ola bottle

 Watts Building, 20th St.& 3rd Avenue North, demolished 1927                       

 The National Dope Company produced and bottled soft drinks in Birmingham from 1909 to 1911. “Dope” was a slang term for carbonated soft drinks with cola syrup that seems to have been used primarily in the southern U.S. into the 1950s.

 Other local soft drinks in this time period included Ozo-Olo and Gay-Ola. Both drinks were among the many Coca-Cola imitators of the day. Gay-Ola was sold by J.C. Wells’ Gleeola Company, which opened on 18th Street South in 1910. By June of the following year the company was producing 40,000 gallons of syrup a month and expanding aggressively as far as Florida, Texas and California. Lawsuits eventually won by Coca-Cola forced the company to make changes, but a version of the drink remained on the market into the 1920s. 
In 1938 local businessman A.G. Gaston founded the Brown Belle Bottling Company and created such drinks as Joe Louis Punch and Brown Bell Boogie. The firm operated until 1950, but had trouble finding sales outlets and mounting debts. Gaston finally paid those debts himself.

Many other producers and bottlers of soft drinks operated in Birmingham before World War II. The entire history of soft drinks is fascinating, and Birmingham has played an important role in that story.  

All images are from unless otherwise noted.

More Information

BhamWiki: List of Bottlers

Blount Springs Natural Sulphur Water Bottling Company

Smith, Dennis. Birmingham Bottlers, 1883-1983. Birmingham: privately published, 1983

Smith, Dennis I. Celery-Cola and James C. Mayfield.

Smith, Dennis. Kola Wars: Birmingham

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pondering an Alabama Map (2): Pelham in 1926

Our map this time is a 1926 road map of Shelby County. I found this map in UA's Historical Maps Collection among various maps of the county.

The map was one of many official county road maps completed by the Whitson Map & Blueprint Co. of Birmingham beginning in the 1920s. The company's namesake was Bethel W. Whitson. This map was created by E.A. Turner, presumably a Whitson employee.

Whitson's company is listed in the 1945 Birmingham Yellow Pages under "Maps". Located at 108 1/2 North 21st Street, the firm's phone number was 4-2606. 

Whitson and his family appeared in the 1940 US Census living at 1061 Lakeview Crescent in the City. In addition to his wife Mabel and two daughters, Whitson's mother-in-law and brother-in-law also lived in the household. Whitson was 42 at that time. According to Bhamwiki, the surveyor and cartographer had worked at the Electric Blue Printing Company before starting his own firm. 

The portion of the map shown here includes Pelham and some surrounding towns. In addition to Pelham, we see current towns like Helena, Saginaw, Maylene and "Alabasta". Other towns such as Roebuck, Straven, Siluria, Kestone and Longview have been absorbed by subsequent growth of Pelham and others.

You can read a little more about Keystone in a previous post on this blog. Maybe I'll look into the history of some of the other places in future posts. And just when did "Alabasta" become Alabaster, anyway??

Next map up for pondering: a 1928 map showing Pelham and surrounding area. Then I'll move on to a look at official Alabama highway maps. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Quick Visit to Bryce Hospital

In May 2008 my wife Dianne, son Amos, daughter Becca and her husband Matt Leon attended a Shores family reunion in Tuscaloosa. Before we left town we made a trip to the Bryce Hospital campus and snapped a few photos. 

Since patients were still in residence at that time, we could not go inside and were gently urged not to take photographs, either. The temptation was simply too great at the site of this Alabama landmark so progressive when it opened in the 1850s and so notorious in recent decades.

The hospital has a fascinating history and the University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections and the Alabama Department of Archives and History have much material print and digital related to that history. For some years patients published a newspaper, The Meteor; an issue can be seen here.
Also online is "Instructions on Bringing a Patient to the Hospital" dating from the late nineteenth century. 

Now that UA owns the Bryce campus, hopefully the original buildings and cemetery will be preserved

Monday, August 4, 2014

Clanton's Peach Water Tower,a Luna Moth, a Turtle & a Hawk

This blog is subtitled "Random wanderings through Alabama history" and here's another of those simply random posts to go along with the Alabama Pizza Pasta shop in London and Alabama natives at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. At least this post covers material actually IN the state of Alabama and bits of history natural and man-made. 

The South has two giant peaches visible as you zoom by on the Interstate. One is the Peachoid in Gaffney, South Carolina, visible on I-85 between exists 90 and 92. This tower is 135 feet tall and holds about a million gallons of water. The Chicago Bridge and Iron Company built the structure in 1981. 

Wife Dianne and I recently visited Alabama's giant peach when we were in the Clanton area. That city's tower is 120 feet high and holds half a million gallons of water. The tower was constructed in 1992 and like its South Carolina counterpart uniquely advertises the importance of peaches in the local economy. Located just off Exit 212 on I-65, the tower was also built by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company.

Photo by Dianne Wright

Earlier this year Kelly Kazek published an article on about water towers around the state. She included many interesting ones old and new.

One day this past spring on our way out the front door we found this beautiful luna moth or acitas luna near the sidewalk. These critters can be found in eastern North America and sometimes in Canada and Mexico. They grow up to a 4.5-inch wingspan, and this one must have been close. By the time we returned to the house our visitor was gone.

Photo by Becca Leon

Life is random that way; you never know what may turn up if you keep your eyes open. I came home with brother Richard in July 2008 and found this fella crossing the front yard. I presume he wandered up from the nearby creek in our neighborhood. A couple of hours later he too was gone. These American box turtles are pretty common around here but they seldom visit our front yard.

We recently watched a hawk land briefly on our deck, walk around a bit, and then take off majestically into the woods toward the back of the lot. Needless to say I didn't get a phot of that one!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (19): Orphans Home (?), East Lake, 1908

This photo continues our series from the 1908 book Views of Birmingham

Interestingly, the photo is apparently misidentified in the book. According to the listing in Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections, the structure is actually the main administration building of Howard College [now Samford University] which was in East Lake at the time. Founded in Marion in 1841, the school moved to East Lake in 1887 and then to its current location in Homewood in the 1950s.

A more extensive history of "Old Main" can be found on the BhamWiki site. The building was demolished in 1960 and an apartment complex built on the site.

I guess photographs were mis-identified even before the Internet! 

The real Orphans' Home, built originally as a private girls' school, can be seen at the BhamWiki site